Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Book Review: Invisible Library series

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.
(source: Amazon)

The description above is for the first book, The Invisible Library, which has since been
followed by two sequels, The Masked City, and The Burning Page. I have been following the series since the first book was published just over two years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed the plot.

In The Invisible Library we get to meet Irene, a librarian for a mysterious interdimensional Library. By collecting rare and unique books from different worlds, Irene solidifies those worlds' ties to the Library. Her first mission takes her and her young assistant/apprentice Kai to a steampunk-y London. At its most basic the plot is a heist with complications, because various underground factions are making sure Irene can't get her hands on it.

In The Masked City Kai is kidnapped and Irene has to travel to an alternate Venice to get him back. The problem? That alternate has a high chaos infestation, which means magic and a whole world determined to work against Irene.

In The Burning Page it is the Library itself that is in danger and once again, Irene needs to go to an alternate world, this time Russia, to save her friends and her home. At the heart of it, this book is about trust. While Irene trusts her own abilities and her assistant, she needs to choose her friends wisely and face doubt and disagreement from those closest to her.

I found The Burning Page less gripping than the first two books. While the first book set the premise, the second book gave the reader an insight into Kai's background, and The Burning Page talks a bit more about Irene's background, though it asks more questions than it answers. What kept me going was my love for the premise (interdimensional Library! What's not to like?) and my fondness for Irene. She is one of the strongest, most independent female protagonists I have come across. She reminds me a bit of Thursday Next from the book series of the same name. I could imagine that series inspired Genevieve Cogman in her writing, though Irene is more versatile than Thursday, being a spy, a thief, a negotiator, and many other things all at once. She is confident and has a no-nonsense approach to situations, though the men in her life have her act rash at times. Personally, I could do without the implied romantic subplot of the series, but I guess it helps to flesh out Irene a bit more and show that there are situations where she struggles with her own emotions.

What appealed to me most about the series was the world building. I indulge in it in every one of my novels and every time I am tempted to go deeper and explore further, only to then run the risk of turning my novel into a storyworld encyclopaedia.

The Invisible Library series is a world builder's paradise, because each world Irene goes to is different from the one before. It is a perfect marriage of fantasy, steampunk, and spy novel. Not only does Irene herself have the power to command the world and those in it through the Language, but each world, depending on whether it is more aligned to order or chaos, has magic as well. Genevieve Cogman manages to give the reader a feeling for each world, providing enough culture and societal background to create each world's flavour without going into too much detail - which would stall the fast pace of her books. While the world builder in me would love to delve deeper into these worlds and explore all the intricate little details, the writer understands why we're only scratching at the surface, and it only makes me more eager to see many different worlds.

These are fast paced books that make for a quick read. And the good news about aforementioned unanswered questions is that the fourth book, The Lost Plot, is due to be published toward the end of the year, and I have no doubt that Genevieve Cogman will deliver. All in all 4 out of 5 stars for the series.

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